Bureaucrats Are Setting Up Michigan Broadband Funds to Fail
State’s plan would spend federal BEAD money inefficiently, leave rural communities behind
Thursday, November 2, 2023|Font size:
MIDLAND, Mich. — Michigan will soon receive almost $1.6 billion from the 2021 federal infrastructure bill to be spent on high-speed internet deployment and adoption. State and federal law is clear that these funds are to go to areas of the state with no current broadband access. But state and federal bureaucrats are doing everything they can to steer the money to places it isn’t needed.
The stated goal of state and federal policymakers, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, is to close the gaps in service and provide high-speed internet for nearly everyone. But, as noted in the Mackinac Center’s comment, the high-speed internet office’s initial plan will leave rural and unserved communities behind and instead steer tax dollars to more populated areas, which already have access to broadband internet.
The comment explains how Michigan’s initial BEAD proposal:
Exaggerates and misleads by inappropriately lumping together people with no internet access, those with relatively slower internet speeds and those choosing not to purchase the broadband services available to them.
Favors certain technologies over others by ignoring people who have high-speed internet access through services other than fiber wire.
Sets a minimum standard of high-speed internet that exceeds what the vast majority of households currently use or will need in the near future.
Establishes broadband funding eligibility for more than 24,000 “community anchor institutions,” most of which are in areas already served by high-speed internet. This might lead to subsidizing facilities that don’t need it, such as public universities, Ford Field Comerica Park and a variety of government buildings.
Prioritizes spending money on as much physical infrastructure as possible, rather than on programs helping people connect to the broadband internet already offered in their communities.
Creates a mad rush process to pass out funding in a single round of competitive applications, contrary to the phased approach done by other midwestern states.
“Michigan should revise its plan for spending the federal BEAD funds on truly unserved areas, which are mostly rural, and to emphasize increasing adoption rates over building duplicative infrastructure,” said Dr. Theodore Bolema, a senior fellow with the Mackinac Center and author of the public comment. “The state should invest in people, not in unnecessary buildouts that only benefit politically connected interests and property developers in populated areas that already have access to fast internet services.”
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